President Donald Trump’s joint address to Congress last night should horrify any sane American about the Republican’s plan to begin a vast expansion of highway taxation that will target regular working people. In late October, Trump announced policy details about his infrastructure plan to turn America’s highways and byways into a for-profit business venture. He will allow Wall Street to charge millions of Americans for use of the private highways he wants to build across the country.
The Trump private roads and transportation (infrastructure) plan was unveiled in late October, but the plan was superseded in the headlines when FBI Director James Comey slandered Hillary Clinton. When our lying, narcissistic President boldly claims to want a trillion dollars in infrastructure spending, naturally citizens assume that the assets would be publicly owned and free to use. But they would assume wrong.
In fact, Trump’s transportation infrastructure plan would privatize most of the new construction, make it all toll driven and concentrated in wealthy areas:
Despite the Trump campaign’s sales pitch, it may also be a pretty expensive plan for building new roads. Governments can borrow for much, much less than your typical private company. That gives them a big, built-in cost advantage when it comes to infrastructure. If a corporation wants to compete, it has to be hyper-efficient about construction. And some might be!
But between the higher interest rates they pay on their debt and the need to turn a profit, chances are a lot of private developers would end up just charging a boatload in tolls and fees—more, over time, than the government would have to levy in taxes … The main beneficiaries, in all likelihood, are the Wall Street investors who would love to skim some cash off your ride to work.
Not only was Trump’s prime time speech last night a disingenuous attempt to dress up lies with pretty words, the math doesn’t even add up. Bloomberg’s Conor Sen notes that the construction labor market would need to produce ten times the number of new jobs it typically makes in a year, each year, to spend the $100 billion dollars Trump proposes.
The trillion-dollar package being discussed is understood to be $100 billion of spending per year for 10 years. Leave aside the fact that infrastructure spending is notoriously messy and slow, as environmental delays and other project-specific concerns make it hard to spend the money as fast as a policymaker or economist would like. The labor question alone shows that this vision is impossible.
If one construction worker can support $175,000 worth of construction projects, then $100 billion in spending each year would require an additional 570,000 construction workers, which doesn’t take into account truck drivers, project managers, environmental specialists, and all other support staff needed to complete projects. That still probably means 400,000 or 500,000 construction workers needed, not 50,000.
How realistic is construction employment growth of 570,000 workers? It hasn’t happened since 1946. Even the peak of the housing bubble generated only one brief year-over-year increase of 500,000 construction workers.
Watching Trump’s speech last night, one could be forgiven for thinking this isn’t quite the same plan the president pitched. Luckily for Trump, most of his supporters are blissfully unaware of the very existence of policy, or its use in governing America.
Roads are a classic example of something that governments do better than private entities, the Interstate Highway System being a good example. America’s highways and roads all connect logically, are easy to navigate and are mostly free to use, even though different government entities own different stretches of road.
Last night, Trump just sold a policy to deliver America’s infrastructure to Wall Street and give away our green energy investment funds to billionaires for tax breaks. That’ll make America great for billionaires and infrastructure companies, but the rest of us will be less than thrilled when we have to fork out money from our paychecks to simply drive to work. The blow will be especially hard to swallow considering we have already paid for these roads with our tax dollars.
When Donald Trump told the truth about his infrastructure plans for America during the campaign, it was far more terrifying than his racism and lies. That’s probably why our racist President kept his speech to Congress last night as fact-free as possible when he wasn’t busy lying up a storm.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition